Apr 132017

So, things seem to be getting interesting over North Korea way. NBC news is reporting rumors that the US may launch a military strike on the Norks if they pop off another one of their lameass fun-sized nukes; this, of course, would be an act of war, so Seoul would likely get a mighty artillery barrage and the war would be back on.

But here’s another ponderable: let’s assume that the Norks develop a functioning deliverable nuke *and* a functional ICBM. Now, if Lil’ Kim was a rational actor, he might issue a press release stating “Huzzah! We got us some ICBMs! Respect ma authoritah!” and maybe launch a sizable Sputnik into orbit just to prove what the Nork ICBMs are capable of. There is little else that they could do with a very small nuclear missile force… at least, not rationally.

So, let’s assume that Kim *isn’t* a rational actor. Let’s assume, instead, that he’s a nut, a nut in charge of a nation that is run more like a cult. So, let’s assume North Korea has *one* ICBM and *one* nuke… and his decision is to launch it straight into downtown Los Angeles. There are three immediate possibilities:

1: The ICBM fails and drops the nuke into the drink.

2: The ICBM works, but the nuke doesn’t, and the dud smacks into California leaving a small crater and a radioactive waste site.

3: KERBLAMMO. No more Hollywood.

Now it’s time for the US to respond. Let’s assume that the US has competent, rational political and military leadership when this happens. So what would be the right responses? Seems to me:

1: The US launches a full-scale but *conventional* military campaign to wipe out the North Korean leadership and military capability. Cruise missiles, carpet bombings and eventually ground invasion.

2: *Maybe* a nuclear response…

3: If the US loses a city to a nuclear attack from another nation, IMO it would be both insane and monumentally stupid for the US to *not* respond in kind. Realistically, it displays weakness and invites further attack from other sources. So, if the Norks nuke the US, the US would have to nuke the Norks. But just how much?

I believe most Americans would feel justified in unleashing a nuclear rain of ruin on any nation that destroys an American city. If the 21st century to date has taught us anything, it’s that a lot of people get all snippy about enemies in their “holy cities,” most of which seem to be dry, dusty hellholes with nothing to recommend them. Now, the US has little in the way of “holy cities,” but I’m pretty sure that even Hollywood would gain “sacred ground” status if it gets nuked. So…. North Korea nukes Los Angeles, we walk nukes all up and down Lil’ Kims ass. Lots of people would be damned happy about that.

Of course, a *lot* of people wouldn’t be happy with that. The fallout would undoubtedly unnerve the Chinese, south Koreans and Japanese. But beyond that, there just might be some *ethical* issues with evaporating North Korea. It is, after all, a nation full not of monsters but slaves, slaves to an idiot ideology (NOTE: We trashed the Nazis and Imperial Japanese and repaved their local cultures to suit out purposes… even unto making changes to their religions. Doing the same in North Korea would probably be non-controversial. But oddly, doing the same in some *other* combat zones I can think of… jeez, even mention that, and the SJW’s get all screamy.) and a maniac military/political hierarchy. Some people might say torching them all might not be entirely moral. That said, North Korea has a sizable military; if the military could be nuked out of existence with minimal civilian damage, I think most would see that as fair. But that would also be virtually impossible.

So: North Korea goes and does something… a little odd. How to respond?


 Posted by at 11:15 pm
Mar 302017

Two-plus-hour launch window opens at 4:27 PM Mountain time (6:27 PM eastern) tonight. If it is aborted due to weather, another window opens tomorrow at the same time.

This will be a success if it puts the payload into the correct orbit, regardless of whether or not the booster is recovered. But if the booster is successfully recovered, especially in good enough condition to be used *again…* safe to say, we’re in a new era.



Technical webcast:

And then there’s this from a prior landing. NSFW audio:


 Posted by at 2:30 pm
Mar 282017

So, on Monday SpaceX did a static test fire of their next Falcon 9. This one will, hopefully, launch a payload to orbit next week. But the spiffy thing is that it *already* launched a payload to orbit, a Dragon ISS resupply mission in April 2016.

SpaceX has a pretty good record of recovering their boosters. That’s handy on its own… by recovering a booster, SpaceX can examine it for wear and tear and whatnot to make future boosters better. But the real goal is of course to make them as reusable as a jetliner. Successfully pulling off this next launch and recovery will go a long way towards making that goal happen.

 Posted by at 12:08 am
Nov 092016

I can’t help but think that the list of things in the “proposed implementation” is more “hope” than “likely to come to pass.” Trump seems to not be aware that space exists and that it’s the most important, long-range thing that a President can *actually* influence via policy.

What a Trump administration means for space

As a framework, on the whole it sounds pretty good. Whether or not it’ll come to pass… shrug.

 Posted by at 7:21 pm
Nov 062016

According to theory, if you put hydrogen under enough pressure it will form itself into a solid metal. Metallic hydrogen would have a density a bit greater than water and would be an electrical superconductor. The planet Jupiter should theoretically have an “ocean” of metallic hydrogen surrounding a rocky core. The difficulty is that the amount of pressure required is astonishingly high, higher than can be produced by man except under a few rare laboratory conditions.

On one hand, metallic hydrogen is a scientific curiosity. On the other hand, there is just barely the possibility that metallic hydrogen is metastable. This means that once formed, when the pressure is removed, it will remain a metallic solid. You will have turned hydrogen gas into a chunk of room-temperature metal.

“Metastable” of course means that it is not *entirely* stable. That chunk of metal might be happy to remain a chunk of metal for a billion years. Or someone might whack it with a hammer, zap it with a laser, nuke it with gamma rays, or yell harsh language at it, which would be enough to cause it to unravel itself back into regular hydrogen. Problem is, nobody is quite sure *if* metallic hydrogen is metastable, and, if so, how twitchy it would be. And this is something you’d really want to know. Because unraveling metallic hydrogen would make one *hell* of an explosive, more powerful than anything else out there. Recomobination of hydrogen from the metallic state would release 216 megajoules per kilogram; TNT only releases 4.2 megajoules per kilo. Hydrogen/oxygen combustion in the SSME releases 10 megajoules/kilo.

If things work out just right, metastable hydrogen could revolutionize space launch and space travel. A rocket engine based on pellets of metallic hydrogen detonations could have a specific impulse of 1700 seconds. This compares really well to the 450 or so seconds you could get out of a hydrogen/oxygen rocket engine, and quite well to a solid core nuclear thermal engine like NERVA, which would have an Isp of 800 to 900 seconds. And it would do all that without the need for radiation shielding. This would make SSTO’s almost trivially easy, make trips to the moon and Mars economical.

The problems, of course, are that we don’t know if metallic hydrogen is metastable (and if so, *how* metastable), and of course we don’t have any metastable hydrogen to experiment with to determine these things.

Except… now we do. Sorta.

Observation of the Wigner-Huntington Transition to Solid Metallic Hydrogen

Ranga Dias and Isaac F. Silvera
Lyman Laboratory of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138

A *small*quantity of reflective metallic hydrogen has been created at a pressure of 495 gigaPascals (71,793,680 pounds per square inch, about 4.8 million atmo0spheres) in a diamond anvil. The sample was about 8 microns in diameter by 1.2 microns thick. As of the writing of that paper (published in early October), the sample was being kept under pressure at liquid nitrogen temperature. The next step is to release the pressure and see if the sample remains solid metal.

Several papers and presentations were made a few years ago describing the potential of metallic hydrogen as a rocket propellant. Given the extreme temperature produced by metallic hydrogen going *foom,* it was assumed that the reaction would be diluted with liquid hydrogen or water. This reduced Isp, but increased thrust.


 Posted by at 10:31 am
Nov 012016

A video apparently produced by or for the Pentagon discussing the military nightmare of the future: megacities.

Megacities are themselves necessarily threats to humanity. Breeding grounds of disease and insanity and socialism (but then  repeat myself) these gigantic human-scale “Universe 25” analogues are of dubious stability. A bit of a power outage and the tens of millions of inhabitants will soon begin to not only set upon each other, but will spill out into the surroundings and will consume and destroy the natural and agricultural environments. But from the Pentagons point of view, there is the further complication of “how do you fight a war in a megacity? And the Pentagon has this problem because you have a city of tens of millions of noncombatants that you want to protect, interspersed with hundreds of thousands of enemies who blend right it.

I suspect that within a few generations the DoD might give serious consideration to abandoning the long-held American viewpoint of trying to minimize collateral damage, and take up the Russian approach: carpet bomb the whole damn thing. Surround the enemy megacity, put it under siege, and utterly destroy it. While this could be accomplished with many bombing runs of B-52s, B-1s, B-2s and C-5s all loaded with dumb bombs, it can also be accomplished by a small number of tactical nuclear weapons. And even more easily accomplished with biowarfare. Given how strained the systems are in *current* high population density megaslums, a little bit more time, population and resource strain could easily make a city of tens of millions ready to be virtually exterminated with a small outbreak of a disease that could be easily explained as entirely natural in origin. And once the outbreak becomes public knowledge, shipments of food and medicine into the megacities will slow, because who’d want to go there, and things will rapidly progress.

The recently released movie “Inferno” (a staggering bomb domestically, but doing fairly well overseas) touches on this. A James Bondian villain has spent his fortune developing a virus that will kill half the population of the planet, and Our Hero needs to find the bioweapon and prevent it from going off. The plot is entirely ridiculous, and some of the supervillains math is dubious (he assumes a planetary population of 32 billion in something like 30 or 40 years), but he does have something of a point: overpopulation is a serious problem *now* and will only get worse in the future. From the military’s perspective, fighting a war in a megacity where they’re constrained by current notions of preventing collateral damage must be an unwinnable prospect. I have my own preferred solution (get the hell *off* Earth), but in the end a good dose of Vegan choriomeningitis might be the only solution, especially in the megacities.

 Posted by at 3:09 pm
Oct 242016

“Doomsday” covers a lot of turf. A virus that is 100% communicable and 100% lethal against humans, and only humans, would be a perfectly acceptable “Doomsday,” even though the sudden extinction of Mankind would leave Earth just fine. From there you can move up to, say, a major global nuclear war or a substantial asteroid impact… not only humanity wiped out, but the biosphere of Earth damaged for a good long while. Then you can move up to things that would physically destroy the planet itself, and if you are really enthusiastic, you could blow up the Sun. But even then, blowing up the sun and vaporizing all the planets of the inner solar system is just going to be a pretty light show in the skies of planets orbiting Alpha Centauri, with maybe some damage to their ozone layers. And even if you could destroy the entire galaxy, there are still uncounted trillions of other galaxies that’ll get along just fine. If you want a really comprehensive “doomsday” you need to trash the observable universe.


There are not currently a whole lot of ways, even in theory, to do that. A Big Crunch. Wait long enough for Heat Death. Perhaps Phantom Energy will cause a Big Rip. A brane collision between this universe and another, resetting everything. These are all fine, but they are natural functions of the universe rather than something an evil genius might bring about… like threatening the world with “in 5 billion years the sun will expand and roast the world! MuAHAHAHAHA!!!” Not that much of a threat, as threats go. You need something that can be brought about, rather than something that will just eventually happen on its own. And here we get to “Vacuum Decay.”

The video below explains it nicely. But in short, it’s the idea that the Higgs Field (or some other basic value of the nature of reality) is not currently at its ground state, but is currently at a higher potential level. With a push, some small sector of space could be pushed out of the current “false vacuum” and collapse down into the true vacuum. In doing so, the fundamental constants would change in unpredictable ways. Chemistry wouldn’t work right anymore. Atoms could well fly apart. Particles could dissolve. In short, *everything* would be utterly destroyed. What makes this into a true Doomsday system is that this doesn’t just happen in some discrete volume of space, but it expands outwards as a spherical shell moving at the speed of light. If it began in a galaxy a hundred million light years away, that galaxy would appear to be perfectly fine for a hundred million years. The expanding shell moves at the same speed as photons, so there would be absolutely no warning. One second everything is fine; the next, the shell gets to you and you cease to exist in the time it takes for light to cross you. So there would be no way to detect it coming, and no way to protect yourself even if you knew it was happening.


From a science fiction perspective, here we have a Universal Doomsday Device that could, hypothetically, be the product of a sufficiently advanced Evil Genius. To destroy the universe you don’t need to actually destroy the entire universe. You just need to tick over a small spot of false vacuum. A spot no bigger than a proton would be perfectly adequate. And then the process will proceed from there, encompassing the observable universe.

But if you put this into a science fiction perspective, this is a doomsday that could be survived. If you run into the expanding shell, you’re boned. There’s no surviving it, and no reversing it. But you could outrun it.

Warp drive, hyperdrive, jump drive, etc. all allow science fiction spacecraft to travel faster than light. So you could fly away from the zone of destruction faster than the lightspeed expansion. Of course you’ll need to know to do this in the first place. If, say, the Klingons accidentally began a vacuum decay in one of their research facilities 200 light years from Earth, it will take 200 years for the shell to get to Earth. No radio messages will be able to alert you. Any ships you send towards the research base will not be able to alert you to the problem… they’ll simply vanish. But if you happen to have a large enough mesh of sensors in the area communication with FTL subspace radio, you should be able to get a heads up. The sensor net will simply start shutting down; the individual sensor probes won’t give you any useful data other than their subspace radio transmissions suddenly stopping. Probes sent to check on them will also vanish. But if you figure out that the probes are disappearing based on their distance from a central point, you should be able to guess what’s going on. From there you’ll send a ship loaded with “pingers” to somewhere ahead of the shell. Scatter these devices, simple subspace radio beacons, in advance of the shell, and listen to them shut down.

Once you have determined what’s up, you need to start planning. Earth has two hundred years. But you already have warp drive, capable of traveling hundreds or thousands of times faster than light. Spend then next one hundred years evacuating the population to a fallback position, say, 2,000 lightyears downrange. You now have 2,100 years before the shell gets to you. By which time you will doubtless have greatly improved warp drive. Perhaps capable of velocities millions of times the speed of light, moving whole worlds or even entire star systems. With this you can pull up stakes to another galaxy, tens of millions of lightyears away. If your propulsion systems are really good, you could move tens of billions of lightyears away, beyond the edge of the observable universe. Due to the expansion of the universe, this would put you out of reach of the expanding vacuum decay shell. The distance is so vast that the rate of expansion exceeds the speed of light. You are now permanently safe.

Well, maybe. If those dumbass Klingons were able to make a vacuum decay doomsday device a few thousand years ago, it’s a safe bet that the technology is now available to any morose emo teenager in your society. Vacuum decay bombs might be popping off with the regularity of DDOS attacks today. Additionally, you need to make sure that that far distant galaxy you want to colonize hasn’t already been consumed by its own vacuum collapse, and that there aren’t any in progress between here and there. It might be that the universe is filled with expanding vacuum decay bubbles, and that older civilizations are flying torturous paths between the galaxies in warp drive equipped Dyson spheres.

This, just maybe, might explain the Fermi Paradox. Where is everybody? By all rights the galaxy should be filled with networks of civilizations. Especially if they have FTL propulsion, the aliens should be everywhere. But they seem to be absent. Well… perhaps 30,000 years ago a vacuum decay bomb was set off in the galactic core. Over the next 10,000 years all the spacefaring races got their affairs in order and then took off for Andromeda. Civilizations millions and billions of years old vanished essentially overnight, leaving behind those who did not have starflight capability. You know, us.

One wonders how a vacuum decay and a wormhole would interact. Chances seem good that a vacuum decay event would cause a wormhole to simply collapse. But perhaps the event would transition through the wormhole, spitting out the other end and starting another expanding sphere, unknown lightyears away from the original. If the universe is filled with tiny but exceedingly long natural wormholes, then this would be a way for a vacuum collapse to wipe out the entire universe in relatively short order. It would also be an incentive for an escaping spacefaring race that uses wormholes to be pretty bloodthirsty. Once *you* are through, it’s in your interests to promptly shut down the wormhole behind you lest you let the vacuum decay through. Screw those schmoes behind you…

 Posted by at 12:33 pm
Oct 192016

Students told term ‘be a man’ represents toxic masculinity

The dumbth continues…

According to the trailer of the film, it teaches that the “three most destructive words” a boy can hear growing up is “be a man.” Experts quoted therein also suggest that violent outbursts are prompted by masculinity pressures because “respect is linked to violence.”


OK, so telling a male to “be a man” is bad. Since a man is what the male would normally be or become, what they’re basically saying is that being normal is bad.

You gotta give these people props for having done a *magnificent* job on tearing down boys and men in the US. By working to eliminate the role of fathers in the education and maturation of whole populations of boys, they have eliminated proper role models for boys, leaving them with either no guide on how to become civilized men, or guides like the anti-male “feminists” that have become so prominent in recent decades. Is it any wonder, then, that so many boys and men have emotional and/or psychological issues?

If full knowledge on the source of all this was ever found, I wonder if it might turn out that a good chunk of this originated as a plan by the KGB to destroy the US from within. This would not surprise me. It would also mean that the people who support this nonsense are actually committing treason.

 Posted by at 2:30 am
Sep 302016

From Wikipedia:

Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ге́льевич Ду́гин; born 7 January 1962) is a Russian political scientist whose views have been described as fascist[4][5][6] and who calls to hasten the “end of times” with all out war.[7][8][9][10][11] He has close ties with the Kremlin and the Russian military,[12][13] having served as an advisor to State Duma speaker Gennadiy Seleznyov[14] and key member of the ruling United Russia party Sergei Naryshkin.[15] Dugin was the leading organizer of the National Bolshevik Party, National Bolshevik Front, and Eurasia Party. He is the author of more than 30 books, among them Foundations of Geopolitics and The Fourth Political Theory.

He focuses on the restoration of the Russian Empire, through bringing back control over former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine, and unification with Russian-speaking territories, especially eastern Ukraine and Crimea.[16][17] In the Kremlin, Dugin represents the “war party”, a division in the heart of the leadership concerning Ukraine,[18] and is seen as the driving conceptual force behind Vladimir Putin’s initiative for the annexation of Crimea by Russia.[19] In 2014 he expressed the view that the war between Russia and Ukraine “is inevitable” and appealed for Putin to start military intervention in eastern Ukraine.[19]

That’s swell. I feel greatly comforted by our candidates in November… one who thinks that Putin (and by extension his cronies and advisors, like Al here) is just neato-keen, the other who is too weak and disrespected to stand a chance of standing up to Putin and his cronies.


Yeah, apparently that’s actually a thing.

Read the rest of the Wikipedia article. It’s quite entertaining. You think American politicians and academics are bad? Ha.


 Posted by at 2:44 pm